Give me space on my bus journey

29 October 2020

Are there times when those travelling by bus feel uncomfortable about their safety during the journey to the extent that they would get off the bus?

We tested this out with our community of bus users to understand what impacts feeling safe on buses. Having enough space emerges as the top measure in this latest research as it can mitigate against other passengers being negligent about face coverings, unless exempt, the second most important element. Most said they would need to be able to keep well over two metres apart to feel comfortable if others are not covering their faces.

“I might get on a bus that only has three or four people and two of those might not wear masks, but with distance and the windows open it isn’t too concerning.” Female, 21, South East

There was understanding though that space on buses can fluctuate and that control may well be taken out of their hands. Wearing a face covering therefore becomes vital and there is little tolerance amongst the community for those who do not wear one, unless exempt.

Cleanliness and good ventilation onboard the bus was also confirmed as important factors, but less so than the more tangible measure of social distancing and face coverings.

When faced with the scenario of ‘standing room only’ our community responded very practically that it would imply that the social distancing system has broken down. Put simply, the bus is too full. Some indicated that they would get off the bus for this and other reasons that made them feel unsafe.

The triggers to possibly abandon a bus journey hinge around the two key elements, space and face. People sitting next to passengers on the bus was perceived in the same way as standing, it is indicating that the bus is getting full. Although, they do feel confident defending that space, or putting a bag on the seat to stop anyone else sitting down.

Getting off the bus was seen very much as a last resort though as many would have no option but to continue the journey. Many of our community would simply ‘ride it out’ and tolerate the journey, even if lapses in social distancing were substantial.

There are some things that people think are within their control to feel safe. These include:

  • moving away from a passenger to re-establish social distancing
  • using hand sanitiser more often
  • opening a window for greater ventilation.

How about at the start of the journey? Several pointed out that they can usually gauge the safety of the bus at the point of boarding. If the bus feels unsafe, they just wouldn’t get on.

Yes, we have some control ourselves, so wear our face covering where not exempt, we can suss out how much space exists as we board maybe open a window and make sure we carry hand sanitiser.

Yet again the message is clear. To give people confidence that they are safe travelling by bus, space and face matters. More visibility that bus operators have these in hand will give assurance to people that it is okay to board and stay on the bus.

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